Pioneers' health care 'covered for the rest of their lives'

THE upcoming pioneer generation package will help those who contributed to Singapore's early development cope with health-care costs for the rest of their lives, Minister for Social And Family Development Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

Emphasising that it would not be a handout that would be given just for one year, he added: "It will have to last five, 10, 20 years, even more, so long as they're with us." This long-term and significant commitment on the part of the Government will help lift the burden of taking care of the pioneer generation from younger Singaporeans as well, the Tanjong Pagar GRC MP said.

He was addressing about 600 guests at the annual Chinese New Year dinner for his constituency and the single seat of Radin Mas.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will unveil details of the package on Sunday, and Mr Chan said yesterday that help with health-care costs will be the primary focus. This will give the pioneer generation and their families a "sense of assurance that their health care will be taken care of by society as a whole", he added.

The minister also touched on the importance of the community in helping the elderly to age gracefully with dignity.

The community can support the elderly's socio-emotional well-being to complement the tangible benefits the Government will be providing, he said.

Referring to the year Singapore gained independence, he also urged the young to learn from the 1965 generation's "fighting spirit" to make the country better.

"Many of them had much less than us today in terms of an educated workforce, resources and other material things," said Mr Chan.

"But despite the odds... they had the gumption to make this country work and to make it our home."

He also pledged that the Government would continue to act on its promise to do its best for Singapore and the people. "We want to deliver a better quality of life not only for this generation, but also to leave behind a better Singapore for future generations."

Mr Ng Roy Choong, 73, said the pioneer generation package would be very helpful for the elderly, as many among them had stopped working for years. The former taxi driver and Tanjong Pagar GRC resident, who retired a decade ago, said: "Any extra financial help will definitely come in handy for medical bills and such."

Yesterday's event at Buona Vista Community Centre was also attended by Tanjong Pagar GRC MPs Indranee Rajah, Lily Neo and Chia Shi-Lu, as well as Mr Sam Tan, the MP for Radin Mas. 

But former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew skipped it for the second consecutive year as he was in hospital.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories